'Love Jihad': Fish story or flirting with complex reality?

  • Pathikrit Sen Gupta, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Sep 04, 2014 16:24 IST

In 1976, American evangelist David Berg – founder of the religious movement Children of God, later renamed The Family International – began a method of proselytising called Flirty Fishing. As part of this, several women from the cult built emotional channels of communication with outsiders, mostly reclusive young men and moneyed patrons, by offering them erotic experiences, up to and including sexual intercourse.

The term itself is derived from Matthew 4:19 from the New Testament, in which Jesus tells two fishermen that he will make them “fishers of men”. The charismatic Berg – who had taken the titles of King, The Last Endtime Prophet, Moses, and David – extrapolated from this that women in his movement should be “flirty fishers”: the targeted men were called “fish”. Until it was abolished in 1987 due to the pervasive threats of sexually transmitted diseases, by the cult’s own admission, as a result of Flirty Fishing, “over 100,000 received God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, and some chose to live the life of a disciple and missionary”.

Does this mean the Sangh Parivar’s bucket brigade has a point about the so-called Love Jihad inferno? Well, it’s highly plausible that stray incidents of Muslim men marrying Hindu women after concealing their religious identity and subsequently forcing their wives to convert to Islam have occurred time and again. However, the anecdotal evidences bandied about by the accusers in no way establish that these instances are part of a widespread conspiracy.

As some have already pointed out, the modus operandi is inefficient, expensive and desperate. But then again, as Berg and others have demonstrated, just because something is hazardous and downright stupid doesn’t mean no one will ever attempt it. So, intentionally or inadvertently, instead of righting wrongs, the Sangh Parivar Samaritans may end up writing the script of an Urban Legend rehash – with some inspired madman bringing to life a myth that many already believe to be true.

No one wins the “they did it first” argument. Once a mountain has been made out of a molehill, people get too busy making the climb to check the foundation. By attempting a pre-poll polarisation in states, Sangh supporters will push the pedals of a vicious cycle on which rabble-rousers of all communities can ride pillion. For radical elements from sundry religious and political groups have always had a symbiotic relationship.

India has an able PM who wants to ensure we have more good days than bad. He could do with some peace and quiet.

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